MARKET MAVEN: Eric Bolling was appointed to the NYMEX's board of directors after only five years of trading commodities on the exchange.
Making money is not a bad thing,” says Eric Bolling. That’s the guiding principle behind Follow the Money, the Livingston resident’s nightly program on the Fox Business Network.
On this October day, Bolling—who has stacks of imitation gold bars strewn about the desk of his midtown Manhattan office—is practically giddy about filming that night’s show. He will announce that gold has reached a record high of $1,235 per ounce, and dedicate his 20-minute opening segment to exploring whether oil costs are high or low as a result of this phenomenon. He also will weigh in on the pricing of other commodities like coffee, sugar, cocoa and cattle, and then make a few stock suggestions.
The remaining 40 minutes of the broadcast—as with every show—will be dedicated to examining the business angle of current news topics and challenging what he considers to be corrupt politicians. “The show is a nice mix of it’s okay to make money, here’s how to do it, oh, and by the way, since you’re paying taxes, we’ll keep an eye on your money, too,” he says. “We’re going to follow your money because you work hard, you pay taxes, and then these ‘you know whats’ are stealing it.”
The 47-year-old is more than qualified to lead such discussions after spending 19 years trading natural gas, crude oil, gold and other commodities on the New York Mercantile Exchange. However, the financial world was not the Chicago native’s first career objective. Bolling studied business and economics at Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida, but never took his eye off baseball. Signed by the Pittsburgh Pirates, he reached the minor leagues, but injured his rotator cuff while playing third base. That grounded his dreams of playing in the majors.
His then-girlfriend’s father, an oil trader, introduced Bolling to commodities trading. “I started with nothing. I mean literally started absolutely dead broke when I walked on the trading floor and said, ‘I’ve got to figure out a way to make a go of this,’ ” he says. Bolling more than made a go of it. After five years as a trader, he was appointed to the exchange’s board of directors (now CME Group). Twelve years later, in 2004, oil hit $50 a barrel for the first time. A reporter from CNBC tapped Bolling’s shoulder on the exchange floor and asked, “Can you tell us what’s going on here?” The experienced trader gave her a two-minute summary of the markets. The reporter was so impressed with his response, she asked him to give weekly summaries, which quickly became a daily gig. “One day I got a phone call from a high-level producer at CNBC who said the [business news channel] was putting together a new show and wanted me to develop it with them,” Bolling says. “And I said, ‘Yeah, I think I’d like that.’ ”
That show became Fast Money, a nightly program that provided market tips from four veteran traders, including Bolling. While the new TV personality loved contributing to the show, he loved his family more. “If you tape until 8, you’re home at 10,” he explains. “I was walking in every night and my son was literally in bed crying. I would go from his bedroom to my bedroom in tears, going ’I can’t do this.’ ”
After two years at CNBC, Bolling received a phone call from Roger Ailes, the president of Fox News Channel. Ailes invited him to discuss opportunities with Fox and its forthcoming business network. “He was great,” Bolling says. “He was like, ‘Look, we’re starting something new. It’s a brand new, blank canvas. Go carve out your career, paint your own picture, and I said, ‘I’m all for that.’ ”
Bolling left CNBC and began appearing on a variety of Fox News shows, including the Glenn Beck Show, the O’Reilly Factor, Fox and Friends and Your World with Neil Cavuto, while developing the concept that became Follow the Money. “We wanted to do something that was more user-friendly, that was more Main Street, you don’t have to be a Wall Street trader to get it,” he says. “We wanted viewers to turn on the show and learn something, but also get business news and entertainment.” In June, the network named Bolling as host of its new show, originally called Money Rocks. The concept was to examine the business angle of sports, entertainment, music, politics and Wall Street with Bolling as anchor, mediating a revolving panel of expert guests, ranging from Pennsylvania governor Edward G. Rendell to former supermodel Janice Dickinson.
Less than a month into the show, Bolling stumbled upon a short article on Page 12 of the Los Angeles Times about three city officials in Bell, California, making a combined $1.65 million per year. “I put it up during Money Rocks and it exploded,” he says. “We were the first ones on air to talk about Bell, California. It became a huge story.” The fearless host started challenging politicians everywhere, from Chicago mayor Richard Daley to eight city managers in Palm Beach County, Florida. “We were calling them out, and all of a sudden, everyone wanted more of that,” he says.
“He’s a Jersey boy like me; he just calls ‘em as he sees ‘em,” says Neil Cavuto, senior vice president of Fox Business Network and a Mendham resident. “Viewers sense that clear, blunt approach. That’s why so many are drawn to Eric and his show.”
Bolling and his producers didn’t feel the title Money Rocks fit the hard-hitting direction in which they were headed, so in October, Bolling announced a new name for the program, Follow the Money with Eric Bolling.
Bolling, a political conservative, says he is careful not to venture too far into politics on Follow the Money because his sister network has it covered. Still, he admits, it is tough for a self-described political junkie to hold back. “If I could watch a football game and a C-SPAN debate at the same time, I’d be in heaven,” he laughs. But on his program, he explores topics at the crossroads of business and politics and feeds his political passion by guest hosting Fox News shows.
When Bolling isn’t working, he relaxes at his family’s Long Beach Island weekend house with his wife, Adrienne, a Colts Neck native, and their son, Eric Chase. Back at home, the family frequents Livingston eateries Nero’s Grille and Calabria Pizzeria and Restaurant. Bolling raves about the volunteerism of Calabria’s owners, Joe and Dino Ottaiano, and their fare, despite his Chicago roots running deep—deep dish that is. Bolling and his wife have spoken at some of the Ottaianos’ fundraisers for St. Barnabas Medical Center. The Bollings also organized a party for the children at the Pediatric Cancer Unit of Newark Beth Israel Medical Center. “[The event] included a toy drive and a day of fun for the kids. The entire staff also received lunch, and it was a great day for everyone,” Adrienne says. “This year, we plan to do it again.”
No doubt Bolling is proud of his accomplishments. “When you see your name in the show’s title logo, it makes all the long hours worth it,” he says. But the proud father is more likely to rave about his son. “He’s amazing, a straight-A student, all-star baseball player, track and field on the school team, soccer on weekends,” Bolling says. But despite Eric Chase’s early athletic achievements, chances are slim he’ll follow in his dad’s cleats. “He was playing shortstop one day in practice, and I happened to be standing behind him, and he’s like leaned over, waiting for a play and turns to me and goes, ‘Dad, this is kind of boring.’ And I go, ‘oh, okay, I’ll give you that,’” he laughs.
Eric’s Favorite Spots:
1) Calabria Restaurant & Pizzeria, an authentic Italian restaurant with a pizzeria-style seating area and an elegantly furnished formal dining room in Livingston.
2) Nero’s Grille, an American steakhouse with Italian accents with three separate dining rooms and an outdoor patio in Livingston.
3) LuNello, an upscale, innovative Northern Italian restaurant in Cedar Grove.
4) Newark’s Ironbound Section, a four-square-mile area in the East Ward of the city, which Eric frequents for its tasty Iberian fare, especially Fornos of Spain Restaurant and Fernandes Steak House Restaurant.
5) All things LBI! At 18 miles long, this barrier island includes beaches, restaurants, shopping, recreation, theater, historic spots—and plenty of time to bond with the family.
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Eric, too…on Twitter and Facebook!